Monday, February 28, 2011
Sermon - Matthew 6:24-34 - Epiphany 8
February 27th, 2011
“What are You Worried About?”
I asked around this week what worries people the most. I suppose most of the answers I got were pretty common worries – worried about losing a loved one, worried about the welfare of one's family, worried about the Christian faith of one's children.
Top ten lists of American worries include things like terrorism and global warming, as well as more personal things like paying the bills and losing a job or getting a job, worries about health and relationships.
I did get one interesting answer – someone said, “I'm worried about being worried”. That is, the person knew exactly what Jesus says in our Gospel reading this morning, “Do not be anxious about anything”. And the person worried that because he worried at all – maybe he wasn't really a Christian!
Today's words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount cut both ways. They cut us down with razor-sharp precision, for we all worry. But they also renew and restore with precious promises – and show us why in Christ there's no need for anxiety.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Maybe we should take a step back and see where Jesus started here – with anxieties about money. Many of us, perhaps all of us at times, make money our master. And if not money itself – the things money can buy. The material items of life. For you it may not be clothing or food – we're fortunate enough to have most of those needs met. But it may be anxiety about paying off the credit card or the monthly mortgage. It may be about selling your house or paying for your kids' tuition... or soon enough, tax time.
All of these are good things – money and the things it can buy – but they are not to be our master. They are not to rule over us. We cannot serve them and God, our true master. And when we are anxious about them, when we spend our days preoccupied with things – we are not trusting in our true Master as we should. It's a lack of faith that leads to such anxiety. It's a lack of trust in God that leads us to worry about tomorrow.
Well, sure, don't worry about money. And don't worry about food or clothing. So if we can do that, are we off the hook? Most of the things people seem to worry about around here aren't food and clothing – we're more worried about our families, our loved ones. Isn't that a noble form of worry? Ah, but even these can become our masters, our idols, and take the place of our God. For just as God provides food and shelter, and takes care of our life, he knows how to best care for our loved ones.
Jesus tells us not to worry or be anxious for several reasons. For one, it doesn't do any good. It won't add a single day to our life. Instead, we observe, worrying is really not a pleasant experience. It brings troubles real or imagined into the present, where they don't belong. Jesus says each day has enough trouble of its own. He doesn't want us to make ourselves suffer in the futility of worry. It's useless, and ultimately makes us miserable.
But an even better reason to not be anxious is the promise – that God will care for you! Jesus unfolds this in various ways – comparing us to the lilies and the birds, clothed and fed by God without care or worry. And then he says, aren't you worth more than these? Then don't worry – God will care for you all the more!
If you doubt God's care, if you don't trust that he will provide for you. If you are beset by worry and hounded by your anxieties, if you just can't see that God wants what is best for you and will go to great lengths to provide it – then look again to the cross.
Ponder this, “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God provided for our greatest need – our only real eternal need – the salvation of our souls.
If we were still lost in sin, then no amount of food or clothing or money or anything would matter. We would be lost eternally. We would be destined for destruction. We would have bigger worries than these. But Christ has saved us from all this by his blood. He who was impoverished and naked and hungry and thirsty for us – he gives us a robe of righteousness, bread from heaven, the water of life, and the riches of his grace – a crown of glory that will never fade. You think the lilies and the birds have it good? Remember his promises to you! Recall what God has done for you in Christ!
Now, it's true, we don't always see the physical blessings we want when we want them. And it's true that some people do go hungry, and naked, and some people even starve to death. These promises to provide for us are not, ultimately, of this world. For while God does provide for us here, and everything we have here is a gift from him, there will be a day when this life ends. When the lights go out, and no money will help us, no food will keep us alive another day.
But it's that day when we will see the fullness of his promises. Then we will have abundant and eternal provisions beyond our wildest dreams. That day is an end to all worry, anxiety, or any thought of a future that holds any trouble at all.
So don't worry about tomorrow. Instead, trust in the one who provides for you. The one who provided even his own Son. He knows your needs. And he promises to provide for you eternally. Don't worry about tomorrow, but in faith, look further to that glorious day when all his promises come in full, and we share the eternal blessings of heaven.